The way fashion varies from neighborhood to neighborhood in New York, it’s like an intricate puzzle that outsiders must piece together. From the Nike-ankle-sock-wearing hipsters in Williamsburg to the tailored togetherness of the Upper East Side, each area exhibits a distinct sartorial vibe.
Many travellers get sucked in by the gravity of the city’s various high streets – namely, Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue and lately, the increasingly popular Meatpacking District, home to brands like AllSaints, Vince and Diane von Furstenburg (who basically coined the All-American wrap dress).
For those who want to walk on a wilder side, however, there’s Laura Solin-Valdina (also known as NYCSTYLIST), fashion stylist to Manhattan socialites like Diana Taylor (Michael Bloomberg’s long-time partner) and Wall Street CEOs. Solin-Valdina’s everyday job is to sift through the clutter of New York boutiques to find quality clothing and shopping experiences that only a New Yorker would know about.
Here, Solin-Valdina gives Billy an insider’s look at off-the-beaten path retailers and the street style trends in key New York neighborhoods.
Upper East Side
Watch women walk down the picturesque, tree-lined streets of the Upper East Side and you’ll notice a pattern: fitted mini dresses are paired with boxy, cropped jackets (tailored, of course) and chunky stacked heels. “And to complete that look you definitely need a small-sized cross-body purse, which is very on trend right now,” Solin-Valdina says.
Tucked away on 69th Street between Madison Avenue and Fifth is Fivestory, a hyper-curated boutique of women’s ready-to-wear clothing, shoes and accessories from designers including Alexander Wang, Carolina Herrera and Celine. With a shoe department that measures 10-by-10 feet and a hand-picked selection of handbags, shoppers are likely to find their one of a kind – whether it be a statement cropped jacket, pair of leather ankle boots or a patterned crossbody – here.
Meanwhile, no trip to the Upper East Side is complete without the traditional brownstone shopping experience. Find classic yet cool women’s everyday line Veronica Beard at 988 Madison Ave. where sisters-in-law Veronica Miele Beard and Veronica Swanson Beard opt out of the boxy atmosphere of most clothing stores. Instead, they show their line at an apartment, and shoppers feel like they’re like they’ve been invited to a friend’s home.
Garment District and Kips Bay
“The common element between the Garment District and Kips is that they are home to a lot of the fashion and design schools. In the Garment District, on the west side of town, you have the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Parsons School of Design, and on the east side, you have the School of Visual Arts,” explains Solin-Valdina. “They’re both areas where you can let loose and try anything. Some things look good, and some things don’t but creativity is definitely appreciated.”
Think: eccentric designs, unexpected pops of colour and bold accessories. “It could be a classic jacket with an exaggerated shoulder pad or a shoe with an exaggerated bow of some sort,” Solin-Valdina states.
For two retailers that epitomize the creative nature of each district, take Bene Rialto (Garment District) and Dover Street Market (Kips Bay). The former, just around the corner from Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue, is a five-floor townhouse, experiential event space and fashion accelerator for emerging local designers. In Bene Rialto’s retail marketplace, you’ll find everything from chunky, bright-red bangles made by independent jewellery designer Ona Chan to gender-neutral totes by Ro Bags.
New York’s Dover Street Market, (which has sister locations in London, Ginza and Beijing) meanwhile, is part fashion-art gallery, part luxury retailer. Brands like Gucci, J.W. Anderson Men’s and Raf Simons create capsule collections for the store that you can’t find anywhere else.
Nolita and Bowery
In Nolita and Bowery, the aesthetic is rock ’n’ roll-meets-boho: “It’s cool and chic rather than proper and polished. You’ll see maxi dresses, layered pants, chunky shoes, hats, accessories, fringe, draping and a lot of black,” explains Solin-Valdina. Just park outside of the Bowery Hotel, New York City’s trendiest celebrity haunt and you might just spot Robert Pattinson walking out of the building in fitted ripped jeans and a wide-brimmed hat.
John Varvatos Bowery studio captures the men’s rock ’n’ roll vibe to a T. It’s located in the old CBGB music club at 315 Bowery, which closed in 2006; the Varvatos team preserved parts of the club by restoring bits of its interior (they even kept the graffiti on the toilets). The ambiance sets the scene for Varvatos’ collection of leather jackets, Chelsea boots, and black velvet scarves.
The boho lovers should head to indie boutique WARM at 181 Mott St., where Hawaiian export Winnie Beattie and her husband Rob Magnotta spend their days scoping out clothing and accessories for men, women and children that evoke sunshine, mountains, family and travel. Expect to see a wide range of wares – pieces by British designer Isabel Marant, Parisian skate-casual brand Cuisse de grenouille and swimwear line Solid and Striped.
Williamsburg is home to trend-following under-35s who sport over-the-top vintage accessories. “I always joke that my husband’s architect friends try and outdo one another with their eyeglasses,” says Solin-Valdina. Warby Parker is a favourite destination for hipster specs.
You’ll spot a lot of low-high mixing and matching: fitted boyfriend jeans with lace-up brogue shoes and ankle socks, and flowy skirts with oversized jackets and combat boots. “Williamsburg also has that ‘f--- you’ attitude,” Solin-Valdina explains. “People there are like, ‘I’m going to wear this beautiful white lace dress with some s--- kicker, and I’m going to look great … and by the way, don’t touch anything that I have on.’”
For local Brooklynites, consignment shops are where it’s at. At Eva Gentry Consignment on the trendy Atlantic Avenue strip, you’ll be able to nab designer items at a lower cost. Gentry is meticulous about the items she brings into her store, so expect high-end goods in pristine condition, and new stock – Guidi boots, a Marni belt and Acne jeans, for instance – are posted on the shop’s Instagram daily.